Today marks the 90th year anniversary of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, http://www.appalachiantrail.org/, the organization responsible for protecting the longest hiking trail in the world. The Appalachian Trail stretches 2,185 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. And it goes right through the Delaware Water Gap, not far from Pine Forest Camp. Many of our campers have hiked the Appalachian Trail, led by our intrepid leader Nafis. We have climbed its crests and camped in its valleys. Pine Forest campers salute the Conservancy and thank you for maintaining the beauty of our Appalachian Trail for all to enjoy.
What makes PFC great? The people. No question. We take pride in hiring the best counselors around to make each and every summer at Pine Forest exceptional! Former campers, athletes, coaches, teachers, bio-engineers…You name it. We search far and wide to find great people.
Last week, one of our directors, Lee, went overseas to Manchester, London and Krakow (Poland!!) to search for a few sensational international specialist counselors for activities including: Ropes, Aquatics, Waterfront, Outdoor Rec., and much more! There’s nothing like meeting applicants in person.
Here are some new faces to look forward to seeing this summer at PFC!
You may have seen the blog “The Opposite of Spoiled” by Ron Leiber that appeared in the New York Times on December 11th, entitled “Finding an Overnight Camp that’s Truly Worth It.” If not, it’s worth the read. Leiber raises five “essential” questions that parents should ask when choosing a summer camp that is truly worth it. Here are the questions from the article and our answers. We think that they truly set Pine Forest apart, above and beyond others. Read on!
1) “Where are other children going?”
As Leiber says, this is a trick question. There is a natural instinct to send your child to the same camp as his or her friends in the neighborhood. The answer should be that a worthwhile overnight camp has a diversity of geographic areas represented. Overnight camp friends should not be the same as friends at home. That’s the biggest difference from day camp. Every child has friends from home and school, but let camp introduce him to a whole new group of friends, some that span great distances, with different interests, styles and stories. Let your child reinvent him or herself! An investment in camp should broaden a child’s circle of friends and prepare him or her for making connections in college, in the work place and in life!
Here’s an interesting statistic: At PFC we have campers from 114 towns, 15 states and 4 countries. There’s a whole world of new friends out there, and they might be living right in your cabin!
2) “What are the retention figures?”
This is one of our favorites. Once a child starts at camp there is a 90% return the next year. This continues until “graduating” as 11th graders. Our retention rates are truly amazing. The author asks if we do follow up on those few who don’t return, and of course we do. Every camper is an integral part of our camp family. Honestly, the few children who depart before their final year do so for reasons unrelated to camp, a family trip is planned, a team requires practice at home, etc.
The blog also asks the retention rate of counselors and the percentage of counselors who are former campers. Here’s an answer that you might not expect: first as to counselor retention, our standards are high. Counselors are not automatically asked to return, in fact we are very selective about who meets our standards. Also, the truth is that not every former camper makes a great counselor. The transition is not easy. Not every young adult can make the change from being the one who is looked after to the person who does the looking after. New counselors bring new ideas, new energy and a gung-ho spirit, that not every former camper possesses. Our experience and firm belief is that the best counselor team is a mix, new and old. We want the most enthusiastic, positive role models for campers, whomever they are!
3) “What can they do here that they can’t do at home?”
Here’s the beginning of a truly endless list that starts with wake-up and goes till lights-out. Good morning, it’s group clean up, then off to rock-climbing, mountain biking, martial arts, sailing, canoeing the rapids of the Delaware. Travel with your camp basketball team to play another camp. Experience Capture the Assagi, join a dance team, start a rock band, hike the Appalachian Trail, overnight in a yurt, cook wood-burning pizza, visit a Triple A small-town baseball game, act in a bunk skit, link arms with a whole camp and sing songs around a campfire that have been sung for generations.
And by the way, we try not to do things that you do at home. So on trips we stay in college dorms-not hotels, we don’t normally go to amusement parks, bowling, movie theaters. It’s on purpose! You can do that at home with your parents!
4) “What makes your camp unique?”
To us, that really is the most important question. Our camp organization is 85 years old and has been in one family for 5 generations. There are thousands of camps in the USA, hundreds that are old but very few, if any, can say that. Our longevity and track record is truly unmatched. Our facilities are modern. The range of activity choices, amazing. Our camp staff is second to none, filled with coaches and teachers and camp folk. The ratio of staff to campers, almost 2:1. We have a rare range of campers from all over. But it’s our 5 generations, 85 years, of down-to-earth, friendly, warm, accepting, earthy, kids of character who make Pine Forest unique.
5) “Can you tell me about the ties that bind?”
Here the author is really asking about the soul of a camp. He mentions his daughter, at lineup, watching two staff members honored who fell in love and became engaged at camp. He’s speaking to a sense of self, a sense of identity that links a person to his or her camp for all of time.
All you have to do is look around Pine Forest to see our ties that bind: from names on courts and fields to our Old Timers Tree and memory wall spanning generations. As you probably know, we keep in touch with campers and alumni during the off-season in ways that go above and beyond any other camps we know of. Between reunions, local get-togethers, alumni events in cities around the country, and alumni Facebook pages, Pine Forest Camp is with our campers, in their daily lives, long after they’re campers. If you’ve never done so, just take a minute to check out our online database of Old Timers Tree names or our Married Couples Who Met at Camp link. Both speak to the heart and soul of camp, and that heart and soul is you: each and every past, present or future camper who spends one summer or ten in Greeley, PA.
There are three signs that nature sends us every summer to let us know that camp is fleeting; going too fast. First we see the Canadian geese overhead, in tight V formation flying low over Mitchell Field heading south in advance of the cold. You can hear the squawking as they approach, zeroing in on their flight path.
Next is the sight of the first red leaves. Usually, you can find them down by the lake. There they are, on the tips of the tallest trees, red, yellow and gold waving in the breeze coming off Lake Greeley. It’s always the first week in August, just before Color Days, color!
And finally there are the crickets. They start at dusk, just as the sun goes down over the tree tops above the girls pool. You can hear just a few, here and there, during the month of July. The sound gets louder each week. Louder and louder, a crescendo, until the final days of camp, when they sound like a symphony. Sometimes you have to raise your voice to be heard over the cacophony of sound.
The smell of pines, the sight of a Milky Way of stars above, the feel of brisk mountain air and the happy crazy sound of crickets.
I went to PFC in the late 80‘s/early 90’s. I started as a high senior 9 and continued on for the next 5 years into the counselor years. Some of the best years of my life thus far. I stopped only because it was time to get an internship “in the real world.” It was not my choice, that’s for sure.
Fast forward many years, I am now a Mom of two childen at PFC…a13 year old girl, who will start her fifth summer as a high senior 9 and a 10 year old boy going into his second summer as an Inter 5. I was an Inter 5 counselor and some of my then campers now have kids at camp as well! How old that makes us all feel goes without saying!
When we started our family camp search, we researched a few camps. I told myself what was right for me may not be right for my children. PIne Forest was all I wanted for them but I tried to be fair and open. It was my daughter who knew right away that Pine Forest was for her. Perhaps her 2nd generation status wooed her a bit, but she said she just got “a feeling” the second she saw PFC. She’s so my kid.
As I tell my children, PFC was my happy place for many years in my youth but it’s now theirs. I try not to bombard them with memories and stories and resist the urge to point out pictures of me on the Hughie and dining hall walls. They’re building their own memories now and the time is all theirs. But as I’ve learned, PFC is still a place in all of our hearts. The same incredible Black family still owns and runs it, 5 generations, 85 years strong. A lot of course has changed with the times, but so much has remained the same. Just how we would want it to be.
Sometimes you don’t know how much something means to you until you come back again and see it through the eyes of your children. I encourage you to give camp a call, check out their website, schedule a meeting with one of the team and consider giving your child the gift of PFC, just as your parents did. Give yourself the thrill of a lifetime, getting to watch your child walk the same hills, play on the same fields and sit in the same Netsy benches for Friday night services as you did! It really is a rare and special gift, not only for your children, but for yourself!
– Hillary Lane Slovin
See what it’s like to be a Pine Forest Camper! All of this footage was shot in one day at camp this past summer.
As we embark on our 85th summer, we want to express our heartfelt thanks for the 4 generations of campers and counselors who have been a part of Pine Forest Camp.
From the tree tops of Lauri Field to the shores of Lake Greeley, from Juniors to mighty Hi-Seniors, from great –grandparents to great –grandchildren, thank you all.
Every camp tells a story. Whether you went to PFC for one summer or ten, you have written Pine Forest’s story and it is filled with fun, friendship and love.
Keep the memories alive and the friendships strong, not just in summer but in every season of the year and of your life. Wherever you are, Pine Forest is with you. And after all of these years and all of those generations, that is a lot to be thankful for.
Happy 85th! Happy Thanksgiving!
On this Veteran’s Day we recognized with gratitude our own Pine Forest Camp Director, Marvin Black. Uncle Marvin, now 89, served in the US Navy in WWII and participated in the invasion of Okinawa in the South Pacific. He was a radioman on a landing craft that brought US Marines to the beaches during this crucial battle.
Many PFC counselors also served during WWII and in other conflicts. Uncle Marv remembers thinking of his parents and family back at Pine Forest Camp during the war. Although Uncle Marv said that he was homesick when he headed off to war, he took comfort in knowing that they were safe and sound back at camp in Greeley, Pa. He returned after the war to a hero’s welcome at camp and in his hometown of Upper Darby, Pa. Yesterday, Uncle Marvin and many other veterans were celebrated in a Veteran’s Day Parade. Uncle Marvin served our country with courage and valor and will forever be a bright, shining star in our proud Pine Forest Camp legacy. We salute you Uncle Marv!
Congratulations to our very own Program Director, Jess Chadwin, on her induction into the Germantown Academy Sports Hall of Fame!
Jess is the daughter of Sherrea (former Girls Head Counselor) & Steve ‘Chad’ Chadwin (current Athletic Director) and spent many many summers as a camper at Pine Forest. We’re so lucky & happy to have her as part of the PFC leadership team!
Way to go, Jess! YOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!